Being surrounded by hundreds of exotic birds in the interactive aviaries at the Indianapolis Zoo's newest exhibit, Flights of Fancy: A Brilliance of Birds presented by Citizens Energy Group, might be a foreign experience to many people. But Carl Jones, Ph. D., one of this year’s Indianapolis Prize finalists, would be right at home there.
That’s because Jones’ research has mainly centered around birds. But unlike the nose-to-beak experience the Zoo has created in the Encounters area, Jones has the opportunity to see and study exotic birds in their native environment in the Mascarene Islands.
Though some might know of this island chain as a spectacularly beautiful vacation spot, most people have never heard of these small, remote islands located in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar.
Jones’ work has revolved around this region, and specifically the island of Mauritius, for more than 30 years. He began working to save the island's animal inhabitants in the 1970s and he is now the scientific director of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation as well as an International Conservation Fellow at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
“Carl Jones has devoted a lifetime career to Mauritius and its wildlife, which — like so many oceanic islands — has suffered so much from invasive species,” states Mark Stanley Price, senior research fellow of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at the University of Oxford.
Jones is personally credited with the leading role in saving a dozen species from extinction, including several bird species, as well as pioneering techniques to help manage and increase these threatened and endangered species.
Yet Jones is not intimidated by projects of huge magnitude. In fact, he is currently working on the restoration of the entire Mascarene Islands' ecosystem. He believes that habitat restoration is an important part of conservation work and he has trained many of the islands’ young inhabitants to help in that effort.